PolReport 16 Mar 2006 / #1The current unemployment rate in Poland is around 20% and climbing, thanks to the new Polish government under the new prime minister, Mr. Marcinkiewicz, that in the first three months of his reign has managed to add yet another 150,000 people to the unemployment queue.No wonder that many Poles, especially of the young generation, are looking to the opportunities within the EU. As the British ambassador to Poland stated jokingly, the British government has created more jobs for the Poles in the UK, than the Polish government managed to create in Poland, by employing 200,000 Polish jobseekers in the UK.The fact is that Poland is not doing well. There are many factors at hand here, not the least the opening of the economy allowing foreign ownership and free imports that has put many Polish companies out of business. Also the strength of the Polish currency makes it unprofitable to produce in Poland rather than import, such as food from Germany, shoes from Italy, ties from France. It sure sounds good, except that it means less workplaces for the Poles in Poland.Thus, for many Poles, looking abroad for a job is the only option. It's really nothing new - the Poles have a long history of migration. Already before the first world war a lot of Poles chose to move to countries in South America, like Argentina or Brazil, or to the US, and the fate of the Polish emigrant has been recorded in sad songs about the proverbial mountaineer stranded abroad while longing to his beloved Tatra-mountains, or in books like "The Lamplighter."Thus, not surprisingly, as the result of the earlier migration there is a large number of Poles living in the US, especially in Chicago, the home of over a million Poles.After the Second World War, for over fifty years of the socialist regime, Poland had been a closed country. The situation had changed drastically in 1994 after Poland's entrance into the EU. Today, any Polish citizen can move freely within the new Europe.But all is not as positive as it seems. Although it is true that the Poles can go as they wish within the EU, only a few of its members allow the Poles to work. Only Germany, the UK, Ireland and Sweden allow the Poles unlimited access to work.It is easy enough to go to abroad, but getting a job is not. The language is a major obstacle. If you do not know the language it is only the most menial jobs that are available and the income is low, while the cost of living and housing in the West is high. The fact of a working visit abroad can unfortunately often be unappealing, the potential savings eaten up by the everyday expenses. But if you are a single, prepared to share your flat with a number of others in similar situation and eat junk for the time of your stay, you might get back with substantial savings, that will allow you to buy a small business or a flat.Many Poles fancy themselves as language experts, particularly when it comes to English. No wonder they are shocked once confronted with the everyday English spoken in the street or at the work-place, and it's nothing like the language spoke in Hollywood movies or on the BBC.There are also problems with the native workers and their unions protesting against the Poles working for next to nothing and taking their workplaces. The French don't want Polish plumbers, the English protest against employing Polish welders, the Belgians strike against employing Poles in their food factory. Not all are happy to see a Pole jobseeker undercutting their wages and taking their jobs. But the Polish are here to stay - as it seems they've run out of options.And Poland unfortunately looks more and more as a provider of cheap labor rather than an equal EU-member, thus, taking over the place previously reserved for the Turks, Greeks, Portuguese and Spanish. The outflow of the Poles looking for work witness more about the sorry state of the Polish economy than about the real opportunities created by the EU.